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December - the last month of the year.  Welcome to the holidays!

Merry Christmas – Happy Hanukkah to All

December is a season of great joy, family holidays, gatherings with friends so let us be the first to wish you a wonderful celebration. 

December 25 – the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ in a manger in Bethlehem.  [But where did the concept of Santa Claus/Saint Nicholas come from?  See below].

December 22-30 Hanukkah (a/k/a Chanukah) is a Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days and nights. In Hebrew, the word " hanukkah" means "dedication." The name reminds us that this holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.

We want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have asked us to handle your transactions, who have referred your friends and family to us and for the positive responses to our e-newsletter.  We have fun putting it together - it's not "canned" - and we're always looking for ideas so if there is something you'd like us to write about, please let us know.

And as the holidays come...and go and the year comes to an end,  we want to wish you the happiest of seasons with joy, health and prosperity in the new year.  Be kind to each other.  And gives you "face value."                                Al and Jean

The Year in Review: A Look at the Top Headlines of 2019
It's nearly the start of a new year and a new decade. As 2019 comes to an end, here's a look at some of the most newsworthy stories of the year.

Diabetes research makes huge strides: Researchers at the University of California in San Francisco announced in February that they had successfully turned human cells into insulin-producing cells. The news brought hope that a cure for type 1 diabetes could be within reach.

Fire at the Notre Dame: The famous Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral went up in flames on April 15. More than 400 firefighters battled the blaze, which severely damaged the structure's spire, roof, and upper walls.

Prince Harry's heir arrives: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle welcomed their first child, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, on May 6. Baby Archie is currently seventh in line for the British throne.

Women astronauts make history: On October 18, NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch entered the history books when they made the first-ever all-women spacewalk. The pair visited the International Space Station to replace a faulty battery charger.

Regulatory Scrutiny Of Internet Giants On The Rise: Facebook agreed to pay a $5 billion penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that the social media giant mishandled user privacy practices and lost control over huge amounts of user data.

Have you ever needed a Notary but can’t find one quickly? Here is your answer.

Let us introduce you to BEST PHX MOBILE NOTARY LLC – owned by Kellie Lyle Hartstein. What a great idea - a knowledgeable MOBILE notary.

Kellie has taken an interesting path to this business and life in Arizona.  When she was a young mother of five, her husband was a staff writer on a 90’s TV show – FULL HOUSE and she was a Realtor.  Her background has been related to real estate for years – as she says, "it’s in my blood." [I can relate to that!] She was a successful Realtor in the Hollywood Hills [CA] area until she and her husband decided to move to Arizona for a more relaxed lifestyle.  Moving to Scottsdale, she joined the Toll Brothers lending team; specializing in the Aviano community in Desert Ridge.  Then, for ten years they converted a portion of their home into a high-end boutique Elder Care Home (Harts Home Exceptional Care) proving she has the heart to help people.

Her criteria for the next phase of her career venture was to be of service to her community…and have less stress.  And that’s how The BEST PHX MOBILE NOTARY came to be.  In gratitude to her clients, a portion of all proceeds are donated to charity.  She loves what she does. That’s heart!  She's also a delightful person!

In her capacity as a Notary Public,  Kellie handles general Notary jobs such as notarizing Power of Attorney forms, Estate documents, car titles, Loan docs, financial documents...and anything a person might need stamped by a Notary.  She says she is honored to be a trusted member of the Batson Team brand – as are we to have found her. "Have Stamp, Will Travel."  Whenever you need a Notary-call KELLIE at 480-282-2561 or email her at:

Great News for Homeowners and Home Buyers!
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) today announced the maximum conforming loan limits for mortgages to be acquired by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2020. In most of the U.S., the 2020 maximum conforming loan limit for one-unit properties will be $510,400, an increase from $484,350 in 2019.

These loan limits will also be increasing in what the FHFA calls "high-cost areas," where 115% of the local median home value exceeds the baseline loan limit. Those limits will increase from $726,525 to $765,600.

The conforming loan limits for Fannie and Freddie are determined by the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) of 2008, which establishes baseline loan limits. Earlier today, FHFA published its third quarter 2019 FHFA House Price Index (HPI) report, which includes estimates for the increase in the average U.S. home value over the last four quarters. According to FHFA’s seasonally adjusted, expanded-data HPI, house prices increased 5.38 percent, on average, between the third quarters of 2018 and 2019. Therefore, the baseline maximum conforming loan limit in 2020 will increase by the same percentage.

Those limits above are for one-unit properties. Two- to four-unit properties have also increased. 

This is great news for homeowners and homebuyers as it’s a true economic indicator that the housing market continues to be robust. Additionally, conforming loans are ideal for many buyers as it allows for lower down payments. [based on a notification from Brad Slager/Homeowners Financial Group)

The Legend of Santa Claus/Saint Nicholas

Behind the jolly, red-suited, shopping mall Santa of today lies a real person-St. Nicholas of Myra, a Christian monk who lived in the third century A.D., in what is now Turkey. We know very few historical details of St. Nicholas’ life. Even the year of his death is uncertain, although both the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches have celebrated December 6-the date of his passing- for more than 1,000 years. Within a century of his death, the much-admired Nicholas had become the center of a series of folk legends. Today, Nicholas is considered the patron saint of sailors, children, wolves and pawnbrokers, among others.

By the Middle Ages, Nicholas’ fame had spread to much of Europe. St. Nicholas’ popularity eventually spread to northern Europe, where stories of the monk mingled with Teutonic folktales of elves and sky-chariots. In the Netherlands, St. Nicholas took on the Dutch-friendly spelling Sinterklaas. He was depicted as a tall, white-bearded man in red clerical robes who arrived every December 6 on a boat to leave gifts or coal-lumps at children’s homes. Stories of Sinterklaas were likely brought to the New World by Dutch settlers in the Hudson River valley. In his satirical 1809 "History of New-York," Washington Irving portrayed St. Nicholas as a portly Dutchman who flew the skies in a wagon, dropping gifts down chimneys. In 1823 another New Yorker, Clement Clarke Moore, penned the poem "A Visit from Saint Nicholas", which traded the wagon for a sleigh drawn by "eight tiny reindeer." Beginning during the Civil War, cartoonist Thomas Nast published the first of a series of popular depictions of a rotund and jolly St. Nicholas. In 1879 Nast was the first to suggest that St. Nicholas lived not in Turkey, Spain or Holland but at the North Pole. [based on an article by Nathan Barksdale/History Channel]

Two great properties - take a peek.  The condo is a great "lock & leave" and the other a single-story, easy care with a caterer's kitchen.

2150 W. Alameda Road, #2235, Phoenix, AZ 85085- this 2015 condo at Villagio at Happy Valley is located close to the I-17 near The Anthem Outlets, The Happy Valley Towne Center and Norterra - just about anything you’d need is within ten minutes.  This unit has a 1-car garage with direct access to the home up the stairs.  2 Bedrooms/2 Bathrooms at 1088 sq. feet. It has barely been lived in.  Note:  all furnishings are available for purchase outside of escrow.  For details:,phoenix,az-85085/index.html?referrer_aid=16692

5001 E. Wethersfield Road, Scottsdale, AZ 85254 is conveniently located within minutes of Mayo Clinic, Paradise Valley Mall, Kierland, Desert Ridge Marketplace and Scottsdale 101.  This well-maintained single-story home has 3 Bedrooms/1-3/4 Baths. The kitchen was designed for the owner who does catering. Plantation shutters throughout. Wood laminate floors except for 1 bedroom with new carpet. New A/C in 2011 and roof in 2006 so the "big stuff" is DONE. 1823 sq. ft. 2-car garage. Mailbox in front (no cluster box to go to). For details:,scottsdale,az-85254/index.html?referrer_aid=16692

The Batson Team HomeSmart
Jean Batson
Home Smart
Give to Charity But Know the Facts:

At this time of year, our email and mail boxes are filled with two things – catalogs from places we’ve never heard of, much less ordered from, AND…dozens of charities each week sending you address labels and calendars to encourage donations.  This is the time of year for charity - and clarity.  Be very, very careful – there are some that sound like legitimate charities and others we've known about for decades – but do we really know what percentage of your donation goes to do the work vs. administration costs? Names can look familiar but be sure it is exactly what you want. Sometimes adding a word in the name can be totally misleading.

Carefully research charities to assess which do the most good for the lowest cost.  What % goes to administration and fundraising vs. helping the cause.  We have been shocked at some of the results we've found. Go forth and give…with knowledge.

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Quick Quiz
Each month I'll give you a new question.

Just reply to this email for the answer.

What insect migrates to a warmer climate 2,500 miles away each winter?

Our favorite cookie-Pecan Balls (a/k/a Mexican Wedding Cakes)
(Cookies really)

I’ve been making these cookies since the 60’s.  They’re easy and delicious. This recipe is straight out of the OLD Betty Crocker Cookbook I bought in my 20’s.

They melt in your mouth! Easy - light and delicious.
1 cup softened butter (2 sticks)
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
2-1/4 cups All-Purpose flour
Note: or... I use Krusteaz Gluten Free Flour when making them for our daughter.
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup finely chopped Pecans
  1. PREHEAT OVEN TO 400 degrees
  2. Mix thoroughly:  butter, sugar and vanilla
  3. Work in flour, salt and nuts until dough holds together.
  4. Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  5. Bake 10-12 minutes until set but not brown.
  6. While warm, roll in powdered sugar. I usually put the powdered sugar in a gallon-sized ziplock bag and gently shake – a few at a time.
  7.  Cool on a rack

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Ask Al & Jean: This Month's Question
Is it better to buy new construction or an existing home?

Whichever works for you; remember that having a Realtor represent you in the purchase of new construction is to your advantage and costs you nothing.  We just need to go with you to register with you.

This boils down to a matter of preference. Both new construction and existing homes offer unique advantages.

New construction gives the buyer the chance to select flooring and upgrades but will generally require a considerable amount of money to landscape, do window covers, upgrade for more electrical outlets and fixtures...but it is brand new with full warranties.

By contrast, you may find an existing home that has all of the features you want - ready to move in.  Or, an opportunity to remodel so it may be more cost effective.

Check them both out and then decide.
This newsletter and any information contained herein are intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial or medical advice. The publisher takes great efforts to ensure the accuracy of information contained in this newsletter. However, we will not be responsible at any time for any errors or omissions or any damages, howsoever caused, that result from its use. Seek competent professional advice and/or legal counsel with respect to any matter discussed or published in this newsletter. This newsletter is not intended to solicit properties currently for sale.
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